Last week I predicted that House Democrats will spend the next month holding public hearings that move steadily in the direction of impeaching Donald Trump, even if they make a point of avoiding calling it impeachment. The reason: the Democrats have a better chance of succeeding in their impeachment efforts if they allow the public to demand impeachment before they officially impeach him.
We’re now starting to see that process play out. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler just subpoenaed former White House Counsel and star Mueller report obstruction witness Don McGahn to publicly testify against Donald Trump, which is exactly what Nadler would be doing as a first step in any impeachment process. Nadler is also going to subpoena Robert Mueller, Steve Bannon, Hope Hicks, Reince Priebus, and other key obstruction witnesses. But what can these hearings accomplish? There’s one new detail that reveals just how powerful these hearings will be.
Yesterday, NBC News reported on new polling which shows that just 25% of all Americans approved of how the Republicans on the House Oversight Committee conducted themselves during the recent Michael Cohen testimony. Cohen had already been convicted of lying under oath to the House, and was about as non-credible of a witness as you can get – and yet the public still looked unfavorably upon House Republicans for trying to destroy Cohen and protect Trump at all cost.
Think about how that’ll translate to the more credible witnesses coming up. Robert Mueller’s integrity is beyond reproach; good luck to House Republicans if they try attacking him. Don McGahn has a documented history of having honestly cooperated with investigators from the start; if the House GOP attacks him, he has the receipts. Reince Priebus is the former head of the Republican National Committee; the House GOP won’t get very far trying to paint him as some kind of shill for the Democrats.
The bottom line is that if three quarters of Americans are siding with a non-credible witness like Michael Cohen over Trump’s House GOP henchmen, even more Americans will side with these upcoming witnesses. Trump’s supporters and Trump’s detractors aren’t going to change their minds. But there’s a huge chunk of Americans in the middle who have a middling view of Trump, and haven’t decided whether they think he should stay or go. These are the same people who would never sit down to read the Mueller report, but will tune in for the reality show of the century: televised hearings about Trump’s crimes.
Initial polling data says that Donald Trump’s approval rating has dropped since the Mueller report surfaced. By the time this next month of hearings and testimony is over, we can expect Trump’s approval rating to drop even further. Accordingly, we can expect to see an increased number of Americans over the next month who want impeachment. If the strategic point of these hearings is to see whether they build momentum for impeachment, House Democrats are going to soon get their answer.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report